SEC Week 7 Predictions

LSU heads to The Swamp this weekend for what has become – sorry Auburn – the premier game on the Tigers’ yearly schedule. And this one’s a hard game to predict.

No. 11.5 Florida is a couple of fumbles, a blocked extra point and a better Tebow bull-rush away from being the No. 2 team in the country, and LSU is fortunate to have out-scored a team that just fired its offensive coordinator to rise to the No. 2.5 spot. Neither team has been spectacular, and the accomplishments of both this season are looking not as impressive in the rear-view mirror.

So what we have to analyze are the demonstrated strengths and weaknesses of each team.

For LSU, the clear weakness is pass coverage. Sitting 8th in the SEC in pass defense, the Tigers have laid their problems on poor on-field communication and late substitutions that leave guys confused and out of position. The good news in that is it’s a fixable problem, and LSU has had two weeks to tighten things up. More concerning is linebacker pass coverage, which has burned LSU since Darry Beckwith went out with an injury in the season opener. If Beckwith is back and at full-speed, the Tigers stand a chance to snuff out the Gators’ quick-pass offense. If not, there could be trouble.

Offensively, LSU still carries the risk of freshman mistakes by Jarrett Lee, which he’s clearly demonstrated his ability to make. On balance, he’s doing fine and LSU should be planning to lean on the run and slow the game down a bit this week, but the Florida game is one in which any mistakes made will be costly.

For Florida, their weakness is a lack of offensive identity and consistent execution. The spread of the Gators’ performance is remarkable – a rushing low of 89 yards and a high of 278; a passing low of 96 yards and a high of 319. The Gator offense gets what it can how it can, but it lacks a dominance that tends to be shown by consistent execution.

Defensively, Florida gave up 140 yards on the ground to Ole Miss and 141 to Arkansas after holding Hawaii to 60, Miami to 61 and Tennessee to 96 yards rushing. The 141 given up to Arkansas (which has the SEC’s worst rushing offense) hints at a potential weakness of the Gators and opportunity for LSU.

I really don’t think you can claim a clear advantage for either team – there’s too much unknown in what both of them are all about. I’ve watched LSU a lot closer, of course, so I’m more attuned to their weaknesses. But Gator friends of mine also lack a lot of confidence going in to the game, so I’ll take that as similar concerns on the other side.

LSU, though, has to have a solid game from Lee and not allow big gains from Florida’s air game. That much is clear.

Homer Pick: LSU 24 – 21

Elsewhere in the SEC:

Tennessee at No. 10 Georgia: Good lord it would be a calamity for Georgia to lose this game. The only X factor is that Tennessee realizes how bad they suck, so wholesale changes to their horrid offense could produce surprises, throw UGA’s game-prep off and maybe even result in points. But don’t count on it.

Dawgs 30 – 20

No. 14 Vanderbilt at Mississippi State: If Croom’s team was 2-3 instead of 1-4, I think I’d pick ‘em in this game. No, I don’t buy Vandy – not for a second.

Dores 11 – 8

Arkansas at No. 21.5 Auburn: Hey, former LSU quarterback Steve Ensminger is going to be running the Auburn offense now. There might be hope for the War Eagles after all. Another “God help them” game if Auburn were to blow this.

Auburn 13 – 10

South Carolina at No. 33 Kentucky: Looks like the Cocks have pulled things together a bit, and Kentucky hardly proved much despite staying within 3 (at the end) against Alabama.

South Carolina 27 – 17

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